Marines Aim for Minority Officers: Planning Memo Sets Percentage

Article excerpt

The Marine Corps, which prides itself as an elite force, is adopting a recruiting policy that mandates numerical goals for black and Hispanic officers, according to an internal document.

An internal memo on the evolving policy, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, says that by 2003 the Corps' contingent of officers will be 12 percent black and 12 percent Hispanic. Another 5 percent should be of other ethic origins such as Asian American, Pacific Islanders, American Indian and Alaskan Native.

The paper on the policy, formally called "Campaign Plan to Increase Diversity Within the Officer Corps of the Marine Corps," says those percentages will mirror the U.S. minority populations.

The Navy, the Marine Corps, the Army and the Air Force all emphasize the goal of attracting more minorities. But officials refrain from publicly discussing specific numbers, fearing such talk smacks of quotas, not merit.

The internal Marine memo specifically mentions numerical goals, a policy not sitting well with some Marines. They fear "12-12-5" will degenerate into lower standards.

"Putting people in the Marine Corps based on some sort of physical characteristic is an insult to those who have performed well as Marines," said one Marine pilot. "It's not because of what color they are or what religion they are. . . . I don't think Americans want the Marine Corps to look like America, any more than we want the National Football League to look like America."

The internal memo was prepared for a Corps executive committee, which met yesterday to discuss it before submission to Gen. Charles Krulak, Marine commandant. The group is composed of nine general officers and led by Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter, deputy chief of staff for manpower and reserve affairs.

"This is the first step in getting a consensus before it goes to the commandant," said Maj. Ken White, a Corps spokesman. The Corps released a statement to The Times denying that the draft campaign plan encourages quotas. "It is neither a quota nor a ceiling," the Corps said. "We do not set aside billets for any one group. We seek the most qualified and we have increased our efforts to recruit qualified applicants throughout all segments of society."

Marine officials say Gen. Krulak, who tells the troops he opposes "political correctness," supports achieving a "12-12-5" formula.

The document says that while the enlisted ranks surpass "12-12-5," the officer corps stands at 6-4-2 - 6 percent black, 4 percent Hispanic and 2 percent "other."

"The Marine Corps will reflect America's diversity throughout its ranks - officer and enlisted, and be a model for the rest of our society to emulate while maintaining our elite status," the memo says. …